Packaged Foods Labeling And The Battle to Lose Weight

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Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is invested in getting you to lose weight. Half of the products on the shelves at the supermarket are plastered with grand declarations of having little fat, little sugar, and oodles of nutrients. Of course, we know from reading Shakespeare that all that glisters is not gold, and never was that truer than with packaged processed food. How are you supposed to ever pay attention to the nutrition facts labels when the front of the box seems to call all your attention on itself? Here are a few ways you can shield yourself from what I believe are real marketing scams that try to push your body image buttons.

Consider the 100-calorie pack of any kind of snack that’s always at eye-a level at any convenience store you go to. If they gave you a large bag of chips and told you that they had managed to cut the calories down on that, that would make a little sense; if they take the same salt- and fat-laced product and just give you a smaller portion of that in a bag, how is that anything special; you just think of how healthy it is supposed to be, and buy two more bags. Just the word “calorie” that they proudly promote on the label makes us think that they’ve done something to bring the calorie count down – they haven’t. They’ve only done something to bring down the number of chips in the bag. If you want to lose weight, your best bet would be to stick with the standard snack bag, so that you won’t ever let yourself forget what you’re eating.

How about the claim on any packaging for fried foods that screams “0gTrans Fats”? The FDA will let snack food makers make this claim on their product packaging, if the product only contains a very small amount of trans fats to each serving- typically half a gram. Yes, half a gram is very little; but you can easily eat 20 servings in a week, and then the trans fats add up. If you really want to keep your heart healthy and lose weight, you want to keep the trans fats in your diet down to maybe 2 g a day. The food makers don’t make it easy on you to find out how much trans fat any product contains either – you’ll just have to total everything up by hand, and make sure that you’re counting partially hydrogenated oil and shortening as well.

You’ve read about this time and time again: foods made with whole grains and unrefined flour will help you grow thinner. There was even a famous research report that found out that people who ate refined stuff, white flour, refined cooking oil and so on, put on more abdominal fat. So it’s simple, isn’t it? You just need to go with products that are advertised with “Whole” on the label, right? As with anything they sell in the stores, this is only half the truth, what they claim. It turns out that they just like the sound of the phrase “Whole grains”, and using it is a little distasteful to them. Usually, they just put in a little sample of the whole grain flour, and use regular refined flour all the rest of the way. You’ll have to pay attention to the nutrition label to see how far down the line whole grains are listed. The farther down it iss, the less they’re using.

And finally, here is a particularly insulting one they use to make you believe that they will help you lose weight – fast food salads. Salads are just vegetables and a little dressing, right? How could they ever fascinated? Well, guess this – some of the fast food salads at McDonald’s and Newman’s Southwest dressing can fill you up with more calories than if you just went and ordered a real fat quarter pounder. They aren’t really trying to help you lose weight with a salad, now are they?

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